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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

IDENTITY -- DVD review by porfle

A one-season wonder from the UK's ITV channel, the six-episode series IDENTITY (2010) joins the ranks of TV shows that were cancelled before reaching their full potential.  With this two-disc set, however, we at least get an exciting and provocative mini-series that's self-contained enough to provide some closure.

Aidan Gillen stars as John Bloom, a British undercover cop who's been working for the Turkish Mafia for fifteen years and has now been reassigned to a new unit specializing in identity theft.  Bloom is having trouble gearing down and adjusting to regular cop life again, a fact not lost on team leader DSI Martha Lawson (Keeley Hawes), who puts up with his quirks in exchange for his knowledge and experience in the area of faked identities.  What she doesn't know is that Bloom is still dangerously involved with the Turkish gangsters because of his love for their boss's daughter, Adile (Agni Scott).

The rest of the cast are good but their characters are never really given much time to develop.  All we know of DC Jose Rodriguez (Elyes Gabel) is that he sometimes lets his emotions get the better of him during an investigation and is apt to butt heads with the more by-the-book DS Anthony Wareing (Shaun Parkes).  Tessa Stein (Holly Aird) is the usual tech whiz who loves accessing closed-circuit camera footage, satellite data, and various databases with geeky delight.

As the series progresses, it's Wareing who becomes the prominent supporting character by clashing repeatedly with loose cannon Bloom, finally putting him under surveillance when his erratic behavior threatens to sink the fledgling unit before they've had a chance to prove themselves.  This conflict promises to lead the two into some pretty interesting territory when Wareing gets closer to discovering Bloom's secret life, yet again we're only given a hint of what might have been in later seasons.

While emphasis is placed mostly on individual stories in earlier episodes, Bloom's double life eventually moves to the forefront when the team investigates a case that directly involves him.  His story arc gives an overall continuity to the series despite its otherwise episodic nature and generates considerable suspense as both Wareing and the Turkish crime boss Kemal (Tamer Hassan) come closer to exposing him, putting his life in grave danger. 

"Second Life" kicks things off with an intriguing mystery, with several people driven to absolute desperation by a seemingly all-knowing stalker who frames them all for murder.  The second episode, "Chelsea Girl", is an interesting character study of an envious young woman who murders her friend and assumes her identity.  Bloom's method of resolving this case is so alarmingly unconventional that it may be a major factor in whether or not you accept the series as a whole or find it too improbable. 

"Pariah" tells the story of a mother in the witness protection program whose young son is kidnapped after her past life as accessory to a child murder is made public.   Phil Davis, the cabbie from the Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink", guest stars in this delightfully twisty tale. "Reparation" is another improbable but fun story about an eccentric Indian millionaire who may have been replaced by an impostor bent on taking over his empire. 

In "Somewhere They Can't Find Me", a middle-aged mother struck by a  car is discovered to be a fugitive terrorist named "Nadia" who disappeared years earlier after taking part in a lethal bank robbery.  Jenny Seagrove guest stars in this fairly interesting thriller.  The final episode, "Tomorrow Comes Early", finds Bloom's worlds colliding when a mass grave turns up several bodies, one of which Bloom himself may have assassinated under orders from Kemal.

As he debates whether or not to run away with his lover Adile, team leader Martha is captured by Kemal's men and threatened with torture unless she reveals Bloom's true identity to them.  This is a pretty suspenseful and scintillating episode that brings the series to a somewhat satisfying close. 

As Martha Lawson, Keeley Hawes projects the right combination of self-confidence and vulnerability in regard to her growing feelings for Bloom and the ever-present threat of her new team's dissolution, yet she never gets to delve very deeply into her character.  Aidan Gillen is the main attraction as John Bloom, an enigmatic hero who's always interesting to watch even when we don't completely buy what he's doing.  Bloom's impulsiveness and unpredictability, along with a tendency to throw caution to the wind, keep us guessing as to what his next move will be. 

The two-disc DVD from Acorn Media is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby stereo sound and English subtitles.  Text-based extras on disc two consist of brief interviews with Gillen, Hawes, and Aird plus cast filmographies. 

While IDENTITY isn't among the very best of the recent British police procedurals, it's still a slick, fast-paced, and entertaining action-mystery series.  If you like it as much as I did, you'll no doubt be left wishing it hadn't been axed just when things were starting to get interesting.

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